Growing our summer fruit favourites – sustainably

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Food and Recipes

As summer approaches, we look forward to enjoying favourite fruits like peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots and plums.

Farmers in southern Ontario, where many of these fruits are grown in Canada, have been adapting their orchards to respond to the changing climate and consumer desire for more sustainable choices.

“The new generation of farmers is using technology, continuing education and their mobile devices to constantly learn and be better growers,” says fruit grower Brian Rideout, who farms on the shores of Lake Erie. “It’s a whole-system approach to air-, soil- and water-quality that will keep our farms sustainable.”

That’s particularly important to Rideout, whose children are the fifth generation on the family’s farm in Chatham-Kent where peaches, nectarines and pears are among their major crops.

His farm is one of many Ontario orchards that uses a system called Integrated Pest Management. It’s based on friendly predators and natural products like pheromones to control pests, with less environmental impact and fewer emissions by using tractors and sprayers less often.

Newer equipment uses imaging systems to precisely target and apply sprays only where needed, reducing both product use and waste. New fruit varieties are more disease-resistant, so they don’t need treatment as often to be protected.

Fruit growers are also using vision systems to scan their trees during the season and analyze images to help predict how much fruit will be ready for harvest at what time, which helps reduce food waste.

Soil maps, cover crops and trees planted closer together mean the same amount of land can sustainably produce more fruit. That’s because they naturally help control weeds, provide pollinator habitats and reduce the amount of fertilizer and water that trees need.

“As growers, we’re constantly trying new technologies and figuring out how we can best use them to do a better job of growing food both now and in the future,” says Rideout.

Find more information about sustainable food production at ofvga.org

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